Protecting Your Marriage from Infidelity

 

Have you ever worried what would happen if you found out your spouse was unfaithful to you?  I think there is always some part of us that wonders how we would react and if our marriage would survive this sort of betrayal and trauma.   Maybe you are on the other end of the spectrum and have had thoughts about engaging in a relationship with someone outside of your marriage.  This should be a red flag and something needs to be done to protect your marriage and prevent these thoughts from turning into actions!

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Greg Smalley, Psy. D. writes about daily decisions you can make to build trust and security to affair-proof your marriage:

  1. Make a Commitment Towards Growth

The more unhappy you or your spouse are in a marriage the more likely you are to find satisfaction outside of the marriage.  Ask yourself “What is something I could do that would cause our relationship to grow?”  Make a list and choose one thing from the list to do weekly.

  1. Becoming Aware of Your Choices

Many times we rationalize behaviors that could lead to infidelity.  For example, maybe there is a co-worker we find ourselves talking to at work and begin feeling an emotional connection to them.  We need to stop asking what is wrong with the choices we make and ask what’s right with them.  As we become aware of our choices we can protect our marriages.

  1. Draw a Line and Then Stay a Safe Distance Behind It!

It is important that you have a line of safety and stay a safe distance behind it.  This line will be different for everyone.  For one person it could mean not working late with a co-worker of the opposite sex and for another it may mean not meeting a certain person for lunch alone.  Whatever you line is draw it and stay behind it!

  1. Become Accountable to Someone

Find someone you can ask these questions to:  “Did you compromise your standards last week?” or “Have you been getting your emotional needs met from someone other than your mate?”  Having someone to be accountable to for the commitments you have made in your marriage will help in affair-proofing your marriage.

Marriage should be a life-long commitment!  We live in culture where we are taught new is always better and if something or someone isn’t meeting our needs than commitment and disloyalty are okay.  This is an individualistic view and not what marriage should be.  Marriage is about “us.”  Take a look at where you are in your own marriage.  Have you had thoughts about straying?  Do you talk to someone at work or when you go to the gym that you have an emotional connection with that may be inappropriate?    Evaluate your marriage and start working on ways to affair-prove it today.  The grass isn’t always greener on the other side!

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The Four Horsemen

Good communication helps marriages thrive! When communication suffers, so may the marriage. Dr. John Gottman introduced the Four Horsemen, which are different communication styles that impact effective communication. The Four Horsemen written by Ellie Lisitsa (from the Gottman Institute), helps us understand Gottman’s research of the four horsemen.

The Four Horsemen are:

-Criticism

-Contempt

-Defensiveness

-Stonewalling

Being able to understand and identify these different styles of communication can help your own communication with your spouse!

Criticism: There is a big difference between complaining and criticizing. When you criticize your partner, you are basically “attacking” their character. Some common words used to criticize are: “you always” or “you never.” Here is an example of the difference between complaining and criticizing…

Criticizing your spouse can cause them to feel attacked, rejected, unloved, and unappreciated. As you begin to use this horsemen in your communication with your spouse, it can lead to the other horsemen.

Contempt: This communication style puts you “above” your spouse. Contempt includes sarcasm, mocking, name-calling, rolling your eyes, ridicule, etc. Contempt is one of the more serious horesemen. Contempt in marriages can decrease connection and admiration with your spouse, which are crucial in marriages. Ellie Lisitsa (from the Gottman Institute) stated the following about contempt:

“In his four decades of research, Dr. Gottman has found contempt to be the #1 predictor of divorce. What is contempt, and what makes this horseman the worst? The horseman of contempt carries with it a poison that seeps into our interactions, turning them into something ugly and toxic.”

Defensiveness: Most of us are guilty of this one! When we are defensive to our partner we are making excuses for our actions. We are defending ourselves from an attack. From personal experience, defensiveness never works. It is just a way to get our spouse off our backs. By taking responsibility for our actions, progression and positive change can occur!

Stonewalling: This is when the listener in a conversation withdraws and shuts down. There is little interaction or responsiveness. That person either leaves the conversation physically or mentally. If the listener is overwhelmed, it can cause them to do this. However, to the other partner, it can come across as if they do not care enough about the situation to interact or respond.

Personally, when there have been times when I have felt overwhelmed in a conversation, I simply ask my spouse if we can discuss it later so I can have a break. This method has been very helpful in situations, and can avoid further conflict.

Learning about the Four Horsemen has really benefited my own marriage. Being able to identify them is a great way to learn how to avoid them. Using the four horsemen do not show our spouse we love them in any way. Conflict is normal, but it’s the way we handle them that counts!

Photo Credit: Gottman Institute

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Being a Jerk: Part I

 

Dr. John Van Epp PhD is the author of the book, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart without Losing Your Mind. He also travels to give lectures about the practice and application that the book entails. He is also the President and founder of LoveThinks, LCC. This company was created to help promote healthy marriages and individuals. Over the years he has been able to do a lot of research on individuals, premarital, marriage, and family relationships.

Starting out, you’re probably wondering why this book would be of any significance to you if you are already married. I too, am married but I still think that this book and research can be very helpful to us and our relationships. I think the first question that comes to my mind is about this book is, “Am I being a jerk in my marriage”? The next question would be “Is my spouse being a jerk in our marriage”?

What is a Jerk?

So in order to answer those two questions that we both might be wondering is to understand what a jerk really is. We all have our own definitions about what a jerk is or can be. Dr. John Van Epp explains in his book and through his lectures that a jerk is someone who has negative attributes. Some of these attributes can include narcissism, selfishness, being unreliable, being rude, dishonest, doesn’t listen and so on.

Criteria that Jerks Meet

The first thing he said about identifying a jerk is to see whether or not they are breaking boundaries. The book suggests that two of the biggest boundary breakers are players and space invaders.

The second trait a jerk can have is if they can see things the ways other people do. Meaning they will only see their own perspective and no one else’s. Dr. John Van Epp says (2007), “But after a person fails to recognize your perspective several times, a pattern emerges… This pattern is what becomes so difficult to handle in a long-term relationship. You feel a void of never being understood or validated” (p. 18, 19).

Lastly, the third feature a jerk can have is a big lack of balancing emotions. These people are very extreme whether it be the more outgoing and loud personality or the easygoing personality.

Who can be a Jerk?

So, just your spouse can be a jerk, right? Wrong. You can be one too. Anyone can be and act like a jerk. Dr. John Van Epp has stated that (2007), “Jerks have no gender…A jerk can be either a man or a woman” (p. 17, 29).

Acting vs. Being

Okay, so you might be a little worried because you might be thinking, “Well I’ve done at least some of these things in my relationship with my spouse! That makes me a jerk”? A memory might have popped into your head about you being selfish or a time you may have not been listening to your spouse can be making you feel guilty.

Fear not, Dr. John Van Epp stated (2007), “No one earns the right to be called a jerk from merely acting like on once or twice. If we are honest, all of us act like jerks now and then” (p. 17). Good news, we are all allowed to have bad days which in turn might lead to us acting like a jerk. Acting like a jerk is completely different from being a jerk. The difference is that true, real jerks are persistent and do not and will not change. They do not want to change no matter how many times they’ve been told they needed to.

a jerk has a core resistance to change

How to Change if You’re a Jerk

Change can be very difficult, especially this kind of life altering kind of change. But it is so worth it, for you, your relationship and kids if you have them. Although this change is worth it from being a jerk to not being a jerk, it can be very hard. According to Dr. John Van Epp (2007), “If it is possible to reform a jerk, it will almost always require a major life crisis or life-transforming event” (p. 17). He also mentioned that the longer you or someone else has been a jerk, the harder it is to get away from that lifestyle. So you really need to have the desire to be different. You need to be aware of your actions towards other people and thoughts.

 

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Citation

Epp, J. V. (2008). How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart without Losing Your Mind. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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